WEKetchum Review of eLZhi’s “eLmatic”

25 May

A clear sign of how long ago the photo above was taken: me still feeling the need to mean mug the camera. But I was all smiles after hearing eLmatic, eLZhi’s new tribute mixtape to Nas’ classic debut. It’s been years in the making, but the consensus is that the project is worth the wait despite other emcees dropping their own remakes since he had initially announced the idea back in 2008. Here’s an excerpt from my review:

Detroit emcee eLZhi has been heralded as one of hip-hop’s most talented for years now, but to some, there was something missing. Despite the witty punchlines, multi-syllabic rhyme patterns and conceptual genius shown on songs like “Guessing Game” and “Rules of Rap,” harsher critics said he couldn’t evoke emotion—one of musician’s most important tasks. Well, the years since his official debut album The Preface have been wrought with painful situations: his former manager HexMurda had a nearly fatal stroke, and his group Slum Village was dramatically torn apart through label politics and what he saw as betrayal from his partners. With eLmatic, eLZhi seems to have drawn from those experiences and read between the lines of Nas’ classic debut Illmatic, to capture the intangibles that make his technical skills truly undeniable.

To read the full review on HipHopSite.com, CLICK HERE.


A Lesson From Kobe Bryant and Spike Lee

28 Apr

(photo from InsideSocial.com)

One of my favorite methods of procrastination/escapism is watching movies. The storylines and comedy help me get away from my workload for a couple hours, and I can usually find a message in the film that gives me ample reason to get back to my hustle.

The latest film to help in both fronts is “Kobe Doin’ Work,” a 2009 Spike Lee Joint that follows Kobe Bryant around during one of his game days. The bulk of the film is Kobe Bryant breaking down every minute of the game: why he makes certain plays, how he studies his opponents to exploit their weaknesses, the ways he uses and encourages his teammates, and more.

The film connected with me because it felt like a companion piece to my Becoming Undeniable post a while back. Kobe’s definitely a talented basketball player, but his focus to detail was the determining factor in his victory. He knew his opponents’ statistics to exploit their weaknesses, their playing tendencies to always be one step ahead, and he even spoke in other languages to communicate with teammates from other countries. As a manager, I need the same attentiveness: I need to know my opponent – in this case, the music industry – like the back of my hand, and I need to know my teammates’ skills so I can put them in ideal situations to score. As a journalist, I need to keep a keen eye on the latest music news – especially of my interview subjects – and craft my pitches and writing methods accordingly.

Some thought the film was boring, but I felt that the tediousness only made it resonate more. All my fellow journalists know that transcribing interviews is one of the most monotonous tasks of the job. On the management tip, dealing with booking, media and sponsorship logistics is a pain in the ass too. But the game isn’t fun for every minute of every quarter, and you don’t nab that alley-oop on Sportscenter unless you do the grunt work to execute it.

COMPLEX: 9 Reasons I’m Sticking with Blackberry

12 Apr

The timing for this article is perfect. I’ve been trying for years to land an article in COMPLEX; it’s my favorite magazine after GQ, because of how engaging both their online and print content is, and how well they convey their brand and serve their audience. Coincidentally, the day that COMPLEX published this, I switched over to Sprint and gave my soul to Research In Motion for another two years. The article I’m linking to here is a list I made of both realistic and comical, irreverent reasons why I’m sticking with my Blackberry for even longer.

BTW, readers, let me know: is the comedy here clear to you all? Or does it seem like I actually enjoy having to reset my phone all the time, and that I really think Brickbreaker (which I don’t play at all, lmao) would be a better game than Angry Birds?

Anyway, CLICK HERE to read “Mobile Manifesto: 9 Reasons I’m Sticking With Blackberry.”

Big Sean x Ketchums x HipHopDX: Detroit State of Mind

12 Apr

I’ve interviewed Big Sean various times for Metro Times, Cultural Vibe (where we were photographed above), and others. Sadly, his interviews have almost always consisted of the same questions ever since then, and that was years ago. “What do you think of Drake stealing your style?” “What is it like to work with Kanye West?” “Talk about hip-hop’s affect on fashion.” I hope that every Big Sean interview is a big difference, and I walk away disappointed every time.

So when I got another chance to interview Sean for HipHopDX, one of the top hip-hop publications, I decided to speak to him about something he really knows: Detroit. Based on his hometown allegiance, our rapport and him being an open book in general, I’m really happy with how this interview turned out. Hopefully, new readers feel the same way.

CLICK HERE to read “Big Sean: Detroit State of Mind.”

A Challenge: This Is My Week!

16 Jan

Every December and January, people motivate themselves by saying, “This is my year!” The objective is to make the next 12 months be the gateway to achieving lifelong goals: losing weight, making more money, and more.

But why wait that long? Often, this perspective breeds procrastination, and lacks the planning for immediate results.

I issued a challenge to myself last night: go as hard as I can every day this week. I’ve set lofty goals for myself this year just like anyone else, and the only way I’m going to achieve them is if I make every moment count along the way.

So instead of saying, “This is my year,” starting today, I’ll be declaring something different: “This is my week.” Or even better, “This is my day.” I’m looking to develop the urgency to consistently plant seeds every day, and to hone the patience to watch them grow.

The Sartorialist x Intel: “A Visual Life”

10 Jan

I frequent The Sartorialist often, and watching this video makes me even more of a fan. This short documentary that Intel put together sees him sharing his opinions on fashion from past to present, along with catching the incredible photographer in action on the streets of NYC. I can actually see myself watching this on a daily or weekly basis, because it’s great to see a fellow Midwest native (he’s from Indiana and attended Indiana University) doing what he loves on a full-time basis. One of the most important quotes here is what he says below, about starting from the ground up.

My lack of knowledge in the beginning really helped, and made me refined what little I knew to make it work. If you ask any other person that does a creative thing, they probably go to school and learn all these different things. And as they get better, it just narrows and narrows. You could ask most chefs: they would need five ingredients, one pan, and a stick of butter, and they’ll make the best meal you’ve ever had. I think that’s where most photographers would like to get to. Not to have all that other stuff, but to be able to create the most beautiful image they can in the most simple way that they can.

Many people won’t pursue what they want to do because they’re intimidated by how much they don’t know. But when you focus on what you’re good at and grow from there, you’re in a better position to win. That’s the approach that I’m taking from my newfound career as an artist manager; I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’ve got my own strengths to build off of as well. And once I’m able to build from my strengths and fill in the gaps, I’ll be undeniable.

How NOT To Get Coverage On A Blog or Web Site Part 2: Twitter/Facebook Spamming

6 Jan

Finally! Something I can spam rappers with!

It’s amazing a post like this is even necessary in 2011, but apparently, it’s still a problem.

If I had a dollar for every time I got a tweet or Facebook notification from an artist with no explanation, I’d be counting Oprah stacks. Many artists dig around Twitter to hit the go-to journalists, bloggers, DJs or tastemakers with links to their music, a vague “Check it out!” and nothing else. On Facebook, there are even more options: they’ll tag you in a flyer photo, sign your wall, leave an irrelevant comment on a status you have. All promotion is good promotion, right?

Well here’s a hint: IT DOESN’T WORK!

Most writers/bloggers decide what to cover or listen to based on this list: buzz/popularity, recommendation from people they trust, a big name feature, or a novel/unique story idea.

When you have none of those things, as far as I’m concerned, the best thing you can do is show professionalism. Introduce yourself, network and build a relationship with the person you want help from. Social networking sites, especially Twitter, make this incredibly easy. Chime in on topics they’re talking about, leave comments on their blogs, and make a real connection. Show that you understand and respect what they do, and maybe they’ll do the same for you.

That way, you’re more likely to get not only a post at the time, but posts in the future as well. Think about how you’d feel if someone you’ve never met asked for help in something you do for a living, compared to how you’d react if a friend of yours asked for help.

Otherwise, nothing separates you from the millions of other artists sending us links every day. And if you don’t stick out, there’s no reason I should care about you.

So from now on, every time a rapper sends me a link with no explanation? I’m going to reply with this link, with no explanation at all.